Symbol of tolerance – Banya Bashi Mosque in sightseeing Sofia
Banya Bashi Mosque, Molla Efendi or Kadi Seyfullah Mosque are all names of the only functioning mosque in Sofia. Once there used to be 70 mosques in Sofia, today though this is the only one left. A sightseeing Sofia, the mosque had been initiated and sponsored by the kadi of Sofia at that time. That was Kadi Seyfullah Efendi. The mosque had been built in memory of his dead wife.
Until the XVIII century centre of the European Ottoman possession was Sofia. Soon it became a big administrative and commercial centre. As a result, many businessmen and travelleres from different regions of the empire visited the city. And Sofia developed very quickly. First, Constantine the Great exclaimed that Sofia was his Rome. Then, Ottomans estimated the merits of Sofia more than a century later. There used to be over 100 mosques, a Kervansaray, bedestens, madrasas, libraries, marble baths…
Up to the Liberation of Bulgaria from the Ottoman rule (1878), centre of Sofia used to be Banya Bashi Square. All the main streets got together there. There used to be the carsi (the shopping street) and the Mineral Baths. Also, there was a fountain, stalls. Even there used to be a pavillion where they would give free cold mineral water for drinking. On the square one could see the graves of two notable donors of Sofia, Emin Dede and Molla Seyfullah Efendi.
The first decades after the Liberation were marked with the destroying of many mosques and churches. Banya Bashi Mosque survives in the name of religous tolerance.
It looks its valuableness had never been estimated properly. And the mosque has a great value because it was built by the architect and civil engineer Mimar Sinan. He was one of the genious architects in the world.
Take your shoes off, sightseeing Sofia
Sightseeing Sofia, Banya Bashi Mosque’s construction was completed in 1566. It has four domes in the middle of which there is a single minaret. The walls of the mosque were made of stone. Therefore, when one enters Banya Bashi Mosque, one goes through a beautifully built arcade supported by three stone pillars. The pillars support three domes covered in lead. The central room has the shape of a cube with a semi-spherical dome supported and designed from outside with half-archs. The dome is a universal architectural way to embody the sky. Its main purpose is when one enters that room under it, to be able to feel Good; and get closer to Him.
In the interior of the mosque the floral motifs are more than the geometrical ones. They are combined with beautifully written citations from the Quran. One gets the feeling that a carpet is hanging from the wall. That comes from an ancient Turkish tradition to hang carpets in their tents. Repeating the same motif, gives the feeling that it is an endless space. That is in fact the Muslim idea of art – it rejects the completeness.
It is obligatory to take your shoes off when entering the mosque. Women should cover their heads and shoulders with a scarf.
The mosque – a place for praying, reading a sermon and meditation
Banya Bashi Mosque is not among the three most beautiful and precious mosques that Koca Mimar Sinan designed. But it was built in 1566, which means Sinan was over 80. That is, the mosque in Sofia was built in the mature period of Mimar Sinan.
Mimar Sinan made a project for a mosque in Sofia. That once again gives proofs of the significant role of Sofia. By the way, that wasn’t the only project.
The Muslim temple, a sightseeing Sofia, can fit 700 worshippers. The whole area around it is particulary lively on Fridays. Then, the service inside the mosque is broadcast on the loudspeaker for those who cannot fit inside.